Language is passed on from one generation to the next primarily through the exchange between parent and child. This ought to be a reliable means of passing on a language intact but the fact is, language does change as history has shown us. The change comes in a variety of ways and the rate of change occurs differently as well.
The high-speed evolution of the English language
English is a good example of a language that has changed through the centuries. Modern-day native English speakers find it very difficult to comprehend what Shakespeare’s verses means without the help of stage actors, Hollywood adaptations, or any study guide that they can get their hands on. If Shakespeare is already a big challenge, what more Chaucer’s 14th century work? The reason for this is that English rapidly evolved in just a few centuries. In contrast, Japanese hardly changed at all.
Reasons behind the changes
There are many reasons why language changes. The biggest changes happen in response to major events such as colonization and migration. But there need not be any of these often catastrophic events to usher in a huge change. If there are more than enough users who alter the way that they use or speak a language, then dramatic changes ensue. Some of the exigent factors that influence the change are new technological innovations, new products and new industries. Majority of the 21st century tools that we now use to our convenience did not exist 20 years ago. We now use terms that were invented only with the objects that they represent.
Factors that influence the development of a language
A language may also change due to regional differences. People living in different regions may differ in their vocabulary choices. In the same way, factors such as education, age and social status also play a part. When people interact, they sometimes pick new words that become integrated in their speech. When these new or modified words and phrases are used consistently and shared with others, the language gradually changes.
In English the change is continuous. Modern-day English speakers use words that did not exist 10 years ago. In some cases, the meaning of the words evolved. One such example is the noun, “computer.” In the ‘70s, a computer used to be as big as a room, and so a person today who says “computer” would not be pertaining to the same thing.
The object of study
Linguists know this very well after studying the process of change that languages undergo. Linguists are very interested in how people invent new words and why they do it. They are also keen on understanding why some words that used to be in the vernacular are not in common usage anymore. These are not the only changes that occur. In some cases, people modify the way by which they express their thoughts using the language that they learned at the cradle.
There are cases when a language evolves enough to become a totally different language, or it may split into two diverting branches. The Romance languages are all offshoots of Latin which is now mostly a ritual or ceremonial language. There was a time years ago when it was spoken in all the territories of Ancient Rome.